Home > Taming Cross(6)

Taming Cross(6)
Author: Ella James

“Jim Gunn” —one of my father’s former bodyguards and Priscilla Heat’s partner in crime— “loosened the oil filter so oil got all over my back tire and fucked the steering.”

“The night of your accident? When you were drunk?”

“The night Jim Gunn fucked up my bike.”

His hands come up, palms out, like he's flabbergasted. “Do you think I would murder my own son?”

That’s rich, coming from a man who just had his hand around my throat.

I had to move, in secret, into Lizzy's childhood home because Jim Gunn had some rough-looking motherfucker follow me. That was before what happened with the bike, at a vineyard party last November, but after my father told Priscilla Heat that I’d found out what had happened to Missy King.

“I don't know what you would do,” I tell him bluntly, “but I know what I'll do.” I burn him with my gaze, as if my arm isn't roaring with pain, and I say, “I'll tell everyone. I'll tell the world what I know.”

I watch as my father's eyes narrow to slits: a monster cornered. “What do you want from me, Cross?”

I stand there, just breathing, thinking what do I want? I’m surprised to hear myself say, “I want you to find her.”

The bastard laughs, like it’s a dumb joke.

When I don’t blink, he does. His mouth opens, and he shuts it. “You’re serious.”

I nod. “Find Missy King. Whether it was your idea or Priscilla Heat's” —and I know it was Priscilla's— “the girl got sold as a sex slave, Dad.”

He waves a hand, as if it's no big deal, and then he says something that surprises me. Shocks me, really. “Cross, there is no Missy King.”

I frown, having trouble following; the pain in my head and neck and arm is getting worse. “Don't bullshit me. I want to know where she ended up. I want to find her. Help me or I’ll talk to the press. Unless you really would kill your own son.”

He regards me for a long moment before reaching behind him and grabbing a small flask. He takes the top off and I want to jump him, steal the liquor, douse my pain.

“Missy King is just the name she used as an escort. Her real name was Meredith Kinsey,” he says quietly, “and they sold her in Mexico. Same place you were when Priscilla lost her mind and hauled you and Lizzy down there a few months back. Sold her to a tall guy by the name of Cientos. It's all drug-runners down there, Cross. Cartels. There'll be no point. She's probably dead already.”

“You’re sick,” I whisper.

He looks defensive, then annoyed. “She wanted me to leave your mother. When I refused, she wanted money. She threatened to go to the papers with our relationship. She wanted to ruin me. Priscilla offered to take care of the situation. I didn’t ask how. I ended up finding out, but by then…” He takes another drink, then shrugs. “It was too late.”

I almost believe him, but I know instinctively there’s more. My father is an excellent liar, but I can see his nostrils flaring; that’s his tell.

“Mom deserves better than that shit, you know.” I stare at him for a moment, at his regal features. He is handsome. This is the face of a governor, and looking at him that way—as the son of a bitch politician I know he really is—I can't even summon disappointment over what an awful father he is.

I'm turning to go when suddenly I remember an important question. I'm panting as I turn back around, but I take deep breaths and try to take advantage of the way my mind zones out when the pain gets this bad. When I speak, I sound almost normal. “What did she look like? Missy— Meredith Kinsey.”

I'm surprised when he opens a mahogany cabinet and scoops up something, holding it out in his closed palm like a butterfly. It’s a picture—wallet-sized. It looks like a mug shot, the kind TV reporters use. It's worn. He snatches it back and uses a Ray Bans sunglasses cloth to wipe it of his fingerprints before handing it to me.

His face is stern. “Keep this to yourself, Cross. And don’t ask me for anything else—ever.”

“Whatever,” I mutter as I walk out.

I make it down the front porch steps and to my bike before the pain is bad enough to bring me to my knees. Sometime later—minutes? hours?—I feel a gentle hand on my back and look up, praying for Renault. But it’s a younger man with kind eyes, wearing a butler's suit.

“Can I help you, Sir?”

I take the hand he offers and use all my willpower to get back to my feet. I grab onto my bike's seat. “Where's Renault?”

“Renault DeFritsch?” The man's eyes widen. “He died. I think it was about four months ago.”

That's the last thing I remember clearly before waking up on my bed a day and a half later. I lie here for a moment, breathing deeply, wondering if there's anyone on this godforsaken planet more miserable than I am.

One name comes to mind: Meredith Kinsey.

 

 

4

 

 

Merri

 

 

THE SISTERS DON'T think the bombing was for me, but I know it was.

I know Jesus Cientos, and I know his tactics. The man is a pyromaniac. He has a love affair with hand grenades. He has half a warehouse filled with nothing but grenades, manufactured for the U.S. Military, smuggled into Mexico by Jesus's soldiers. I've seen the explosions before. I've watched them from behind the bullet-proof windows of Jesus's silver Escalade. I've watched them rip apart half a house, even seen the massive fireball from an exploding gas station.

Juan and Emanuel are the surprise. That Jesus would enlist his nephews so young. That they would agree to target me. I should know better, but my heart makes it hard to accept.

The explosion on the west side of St. Catherine's killed a woman. Her name was Henrietta, and she was walking on the gravel path beside the clinic, toward the market on Flag Street to buy food for her 12-year-old son.

I think about her, about Juan and Emanuel and Jesus, as I lie on my cot at night, in the wide, hot, high-beamed attic where I sleep beside Sister Mary Abalitta. The sounds of Sister Susan snoring, of Sister Daniella turning the pages of a paperback under the covers, of the box fans spinning in the two pushed-open windows...they ought to be familiar, soothing, but after what happened yesterday, nothing can soothe me. I clutch my rosary and pray to Mother Mary for strength. I should talk to Sister Mary Carolina again; she didn't believe me the first time. She is too good to give me up, and I'm too afraid to leave the clinic.

I wonder, as the sun comes up, what Jesus will do to me if he gets his hands on me. It wouldn't be sex—that much I know for sure—but it could easily be something worse. I hurt his pride and his reputation when I ran, and I guess it's still hurting, even after almost nine months. That's the only reason he would strike now. Here. At the one place in the state of Durango that all of the cartels have promised to protect.

I curl over on my side and listen to the thunder rumbling in the distance.

 

 

5

 

 

Cross

 

 

I HAVEN'T SEEN Suri since what happened three nights ago, but Lizzy's been here twice. The first time, I guess I was in my pain trance, the one I learned from Akemi, a Zen master in downtown Los Angeles, during my fight to come off the Dilaudid. The second time was a few minutes ago. She left a note on the door and texted me the same thing: Cross, quit hiding from me. I just want to talk.

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